Bullied teen claims discrimination after 'hit list' arrest

Posted at: 01/02/2014 10:53 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A bullied New Mexico teenager, who authorities arrested after they claimed he had a hit list on students, filed a civil rights lawsuit.

18-year-old Billy Jones claims the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, or CYFD, discriminated against him when one of its juvenile probation officers authorized his arrest in the middle of psychotherapy treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

According to the lawsuit filed in state and federal court, Espanola Valley High School administrators and Espanola police officers questioned Jones about his "List for Hell" they found in a three-ring binder in September 2010.  The list contained phrases like "pink whore" and "special blonde."  They also questioned some of Jones's drawings.

The lawsuit states that the school determined that Jones needed to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he was a threat to himself.

A clinician assessed Jones and found he was "not a threat to himself or others" and released him to his mother, according to the lawsuit.

However, the lawsuit claims that officers in Espanola received false information that Jones escaped from the treatment center.  Consequently, the school was placed on lockdown and Jones was arrested two days later in therapy.

Officers initially booked Jones for attempted murder and aggravated assault, according to the complaint.

"It's absolutely outrageous because there was no probable cause to arrest him for anything.  He'd committed no crime," attorney Shannon Kennedy said in an interview with 4 On Your Side.

Kennedy said the supposed "hit list" was actually a list of movie characters in a movie Jones wanted to make.

"He was in therapy and part of what he was doing in therapy was drawing to address his frustrations of being the victim of bullying," she said.

In January 2010, Kennedy said another student punched Jones between 10 and 20 times on a school bus.  She said Jones had suffered from PTSD ever since.

She said the student was never expelled for the incident, yet Jones was for possessing list of movie characters.

She said Jones never threatened anyone at Espanola Valley High School.

Kennedy said she filed the case in federal court since she believes CYFD violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit states, "CYFD discriminated against Billy Jones by choosing not to provide adequate protection for citizens with mental/emotional disabilities."

It also states, "[CYFD] knew or should have known that Billy Jones was suffering from a mental/emotional disability and that he needed medical treatment and should have been allowed to continue with his medical treatment rather than being arrested."

"And the sad truth of this case is this caused severe psychiatric injury to this young man.  He'll never be the same as a result of their actions and we're going to ask a jury to award a substantial amount in both compensatory and punitive damages," Kennedy said.

She said Jones is unable to function in society.

Although the allegations stem from an incident in 2010, it's not unusual for civil rights cases to be filed years later.

A CYFD spokesman declined to comment claiming the agency cannot publicly address pending litigation.